by Nola Passmore
(Roger Federer; Photo from Photobucket.com; AO2008pctc by Katarina_YYZ)
Roger Federer is serving for the match. He throws the ball up high with his left hand, while swinging his racquet back with his right. At full stretch, he brings his racquet down in a shot-making trajectory. As soon as the strings make contact with the ball, he stops moving. No wait ... that's not what happens. Rewind the video! He makes contact with the ball and keeps swinging his arm down in a fluid arc. He follows through. If he stopped his swing as soon as he hit the ball, the serve wouldn't have as much power and the ball wouldn't end up in the desired spot. He'd also lose momentum and perhaps even stumble on the baseline. If it's a while since you've watched a tennis match, click here to see a short video of Federer serving and you'll see what I mean.
The follow-through is just as important in writing.
Honing Your Craft
Have you been to a writing conference or workshop in the last year? Maybe you're enrolled in a writing course or you spend time reading books, magazines and articles to improve your craft. In any case, you should have access to tons of ideas to help with your writing. Don't just let all of those tips swill around in your brain until they're forgotten. Follow through on the lessons you've learned. Did you hear or read about point of view in fiction? Then try some writing exercises where you can test out different perspectives, or go back over one of your stories and fix any instances of head-hopping. Did someone suggest a writing book or a magazine? Then buy it, subscribe to it, borrow it, or see if your library can order it in for you. Writing tips are more likely to sink in and become part of your writer's tool kit if you put them into practice. Roger Federer didn't become World Number 1 by just reading books about tennis and watching videos of Wimbledon. He got out on the court and practised what he learned until it became second nature.
Have you met someone at a writing event who's expressed an interest in your work? It could be a publisher, agent, editor, or a more experienced author. If they've asked to see a proposal, sample or manuscript, follow through and send them the requested material as soon as possible. Not only are they more likely to remember you, but your diligence is a tick in your favour. (So is a brilliant manuscript, but that's a whole other blog.) Maybe you're not ready to send out a manuscript yet and you're on the lookout for advice. Follow up any contacts given to you. Check their websites for FAQs and if you don't see the answers to your questions, don't be afraid to ask. Just as Roger and his coach have two-way interactions, you can learn by networking with others who share your passion.
What Else Are You Writing?
You've finally finished the draft of your book and you're looking for an agent or publisher. It takes a lot of time to write and submit book proposals. Then there's the waiting game, which can take weeks, months or years. That book may seem like an all-consuming creative pit, but don't stop there. Start on your next manuscript as soon as you can. Most publishers aren't interested in one-hit wonders. When they ask what else you're writing, be sure to have an answer. J. K. Rowling's British publisher only initially printed 500 copies of the first Harry Potter book. However, Rowling kept rolling (okay, bad pun). She was working on the second novel and had ideas for the whole series mapped out. When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone took off, she had another one ready to go. She had momentum. Just as a tennis player can be caught flat-footed if they don't follow through with a serve, so you can lose momentum if you stop writing, even for a valid reason. (Note to self - I must follow my own advice!).
Although I've left this until last, it's the most important point. What has God told you about your writing? Has he given you ideas for books, articles, screenplays, songs, poems, devotions? Has he prompted you to start a particular writing project? Has he given you a vision for reaching others with his Word? Has he blessed you with creative gifts that you haven't been utilising to the full? Has he given you a dream that is beyond your capacity to complete? If so, the good news is that he will equip you to complete the tasks He's given. You just have to follow through.
(Additional source - Sickels, A. (2008). Mythmaker: The Story of J. K. Rowling (2nd ed.). New York: Chelsea House Publishers.)
Nola Passmore has had more than 140 short pieces published in various anthologies, journals and magazines, including short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, devotions, academic articles, magazine articles and inspirational work. She and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. You can access her writing tips blog here. She is currently trying to follow through with the structural edit of her debut novel.